Few Canadians know who Arthur Caty is.
And, as he’s retiring on March 31, few will ever become familiar with Canada’s first and only national science adviser.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has decided to eliminate Caty’s post. He will not have a successor.
It’s a troubling decision, but wholly consistent with Harper’s contempt for government scientists.
You might recall that, early in his minority government’s history — in April 2006, to be exact — he threatened to sack Mark Tushingham, an Environment Canada scientist who had written a novel, Hotter than Hell, about global warming.
Tushingham was going to launch his book at the National Press Club.
Then-Environment minister Rona Ambrose ordered Tushingham to cancel the event.
“I obviously not only hope, but expect, that all elements of the bureaucracy will be working with us to achieve our objectives,” Harper said in an interview on the Tushingham controversy.
Apparently, things haven’t changed.
In early January, Harper’s team sacked Linda Keen, chair of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Committee.
Keen did her job, shutting down an aged nuclear plant after Atomic Energy of Canada failed to ensure proper safety measures were in place.
But the plant shutdown led to a shortage of medical isotopes.
Harper’s government ordered Keen to set aside her decision.
Because it was grounded in fact, and her duty was to ensure Canadian reactors are run safely, Keen refused.
Keen was sacked.
Why? She was a key player in the bureaucracy who opposed one of the government’s objectives.
And now the post of science adviser.
Liberal prime minister Paul Martin appointed Caty to advise him, personally, on scientific matters.
There are plenty of them to go around — genetically modified plants, stem cell research, fisheries data, threats to habitat, the pros and cons of green technology, emerging medical threats, global warming … if there was ever a time a prime minister needed a science adviser, it’s now.
But, shortly after taking office, Harper dismissed Caty, demoting him to an office at Industry Canada from the Prime Minister’s Office.
It was more than a simple move. It betrays Harper’s contempt for science.
Currently, most science stands squarely in the path of unfettered development. Harper wants unfettered development.
So Harper doesn’t want to hear from scientists.
Harper comes from Alberta, where it is not uncommon for scientists and doctors to be fired for discussing the dangers of the oil industry or global warming.
There, such things just aren’t discussed.
Now, clearly, the gag order is national.
Harper wants to develop Canadian industry. And he won’t broker any opposition to that objective.
After taking office, Harper cancelled 15 research programs related to Canada’s Kyoto protocol commitments.
He blocked action at the recent Commonwealth conference.
His officials successfully stonewalled discussions at the UN conference in Bali.
Now, he’s eliminated the nation’s top scientific post.
As he said earlier, all elements of the bureaucracy “will be working with us to achieve our objectives.”
Today, we can finish Harper’s statement … “or they will be forced to leave.” (RM)